Sometimes dealing with vendors makes me feel like a crank, like I must be crazy to have high expectations when so many of them consistently disappoint. But dealing with vendors—both good and bad—always reminds me of how a company like Versta Research can and should be working with clients when we’re in the position of vendor.
So in this newsletter we offer our perspective on the essential Nine Habits of Great Market Research Vendors—a manifesto of what we expect from our vendors, and what we pledge to our clients.
Other items of interest in this newsletter include:
- 24,000 Absurd Insights from Big Data
- How to Get Outstanding Open-End Responses
- Write a Better Survey Invitation
- Research Good Enough for Judicial Review
- Dagwood Puzzled by “Anonymous” Survey
- Sorry, Algorithms Are Not Insights
- Who’s Your Data Janitor?
- Bogus Changes in Tracking Studies
- Why We Don’t Use Qualtrics
- Why Phone Surveys Are Almost Dead
- New York Times Shifts to Online Polling
- Asking Respondents to Tattle on OthersWe are also delighted to share with you:
This section features, among other news, our recent work for Wells Fargo and Discover Home Loans, with coverage in The Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and Fox Business.
As always, feel free to reach out with an inquiry or with questions you may have. We would be pleased to consult with you on your next research effort.
The Versta Team
Nine Habits of Great Market Research Vendors
I don’t know what possessed me, but I happened upon one of those “inspiring” business articles about the nine habits of super successful people, and instead of rolling my eyes at empty platitudes, I found myself mentally translating it into a manifesto of what I wish market research vendors were like.
If only all our vendors, not just one or two, would do all the things I was starting to imagine… what a happy client I would be! And it brought to mind the sentiments of our corporate research clients who deal with many of the same frustrations we deal with. Here’s what last year’s Corporate Research Report, produced by Quirk’s, had to say:
What jumped to the fore this time was the level of discontent with vendors. Here is a sampling of responses:
“Difficult to find quality research vendors.”
“Suppliers underdelivering… data quality and reporting are table stakes. We need our research partners to provide insights and meaning, not just deliver a 100-slide PowerPoint.”
“Dealing with unresponsive research vendors.”
“Finding reliable research suppliers who can live up to what they promote when selling their capabilities as related to the various research activities we engage in (i.e., providing useful insights, error-free data analysis and results-presentation materials).”
“Getting good quality work out of vendors. They tend to be less experienced now and frequently suggest approaches/designs that they are unable to explain or stand behind.”
Having just returned from the MRA’s Corporate Researchers Conference where researchers and vendors at all levels of the research community mingled and learned, we at Versta Research decided it’s time to share our translation-turned-manifesto with others.
We’re sharing it with our vendors to say: This is what we want, hope, and expect from true partners—please do these things, and you will earn our loyalty and business.
And we’re sharing it with our clients to say: This is our commitment and promise to you—here is what you can and should expect from the kind of vendor we strive to be.
The Nine Habits of Great Market Research Vendors
1They focus on earning trust and business with each new project. Our first project with a new vendor matters a lot. We expect their best thinking and service so every detail is one hundred percent correct. But the second project matters a lot, too, and so does the third and the fourth and every project after that. Great vendors, once they’re on our “A-List,” never relax, or return phone calls slowly, or pass us on to new trainees. We want and expect every project to be approached with the zeal and commitment of the first, knowing that every project is how they earn or lose the next one.
2They don’t brag about what they can do—they just do it. Great vendors introduce themselves with just enough background and information to give us confidence, and then that’s it. They don’t remind us who else they’ve worked for, or what other important projects are competing for time with our own. They don’t “assure” me or answer challenges by telling me how many thousands of times they’ve done this, or whether they can do the work in their sleep. Instead, they show us their experience and expertise implicitly, asking us good questions, answering our questions with substance, showing us solutions, and offering options for what we need.
3They manage timelines to get things done. That means delivering according to deadlines, but often beating those deadlines because they’re diligent about the work. They don’t lay out two weeks for programming and then scramble to finish, with all of us in panic, because they waited a week just to start. They’re focused on tasks and what needs to be done, rather than juggling the boundaries and limits of when the work was promised. In turn, we trust these vendors when they ask for more time, knowing it’s the quality of work (not poorly managed time) driving the need.
4They offer their best people to work with. Earning trust and business with each new project means giving us truly skilled and committed people to work with on every single project. We have all had project managers who do nothing unless we ask, or who sigh heavily when we need something more. One vendor assigned us a still-in-training programmer who broke our survey while it was in field. It was the push we needed to bring the work back in-house. Now when we find good managers or technicians we ask for them by name, and the great vendors always say, “Of course.”
5They add value in unexpected ways. Great vendors offer ideas, or suggest strategies, or implement clever protocols simply because somebody who is smart and dedicated saw it would make the work better. And they do it simply because it makes sense. If you’re doing a large employee survey, for example, and suddenly realize it would be valuable to extract a demographically-weighted group comparison from a public national dataset, why not do it? That’s what we do for our clients, and we hope for the same from our vendors.
6They accept responsibility for mistakes and fix them. When great vendors slip up they say, “We made a mistake and here is what we’re doing to fix it.” There are three essential components to that statement. First, they tell me about it, so I can quickly adjust and, if needed, inform my clients about how we are adjusting. Second, they accept responsibility rather than describing an error in passive language as if a mistake somehow just “happened.” Third, they offer a solution so that I don’t have to wonder or worry about how it is going to affect the work.
7They focus on relationships rather than revenue. Cost is important, but what I really value is a fair-priced vendor I believe in and trust without having to bid out every need. In turn, a great vendor does not remind me of contracts, or hit me with extra charges for every phone call or question. They know we pay them fairly and promptly, and they make it clear, in action and in words, that building a relationship is what matters to them most. Bad vendors, in contrast, keep a hawk’s eye on quarterly revenue targets, and they make me feel like a revenue source rather than a client.
8They do what is asked. One thing about great employees is that they offer lively, good ideas and advice, but ultimately defer to the judgment of whomever owns a project. And then they execute on it wholeheartedly. So it is with great vendors. They’re not order-takers because their opinions and expertise hold sway, and they know how to move things along without being told. But great vendors also believe that the people who pay them always have the right to tell them what to do, their own expertise and advice notwithstanding.
9They don’t care about job titles. At the CRC conference last month a speaker asked the audience, “How many of you are vendors?” to which someone yelled out, “We prefer the word partner.” I wondered if the speaker found that comment as irritating as I did. The vast majority of vendors are not partners, and the ones who are partners don’t get worked up about what we call them. Partner, vendor, supplier—who cares? Great vendors are too busy doing good work, adding value, building a relationship, and earning our trust to protest so loudly.
In short, great vendors don’t talk about job titles, or contracts, or revenue targets, or themselves. They talk about projects, goals, methods, and all of the smart ways they can help so that the process is easy, successful, and ultimately impressive to our clients.
Think you’re a great vendor? Give us a call at (312) 348-6089, because like every business, we always need great vendors. But show me, don’t tell me. If you do a great job on the first project, we’ll give you a shot at a second one. And if you do a great job on that one, we’ll give you a shot at a third. And the process never ends. We want your best every time, just like our clients expect from us.
Stories from the Versta Blog
Here are several recent posts from the Versta Research Blog. Click on any headline to read more.
There are tons of random and absurd correlations in data, which makes the idea of “mining” for insights often seem so ridiculous. Here are some amusing examples.
With careful online survey design, it is possible to get amazingly rich and insightful responses to open-ended questions. Here is an example of how it works.
This before-and-after example demonstrates three simple ways to revise a survey invitation so that target respondents complete, rather than delete, your survey.
If you design research good enough for a courtroom, chances are it can withstand tough cross examination from your top executives. Here are some helpful guidelines.
When it comes to surveys and market research, what do “anonymous” and “confidential” really mean? Dagwood Bumstead wants to know. We have some solid answers.
A recent New York Times article shows that even data scientists get over-dazzled by their tools and fall prey to the illusion that new technologies can deliver insights.
The person overseeing your research data ought to be spending at least half their time cleaning and coding all that data. If they are not, you need a new janitor.
A longitudinal study of shifts in opinion over repeated waves of polling suggests many “changes” in tracking studies are merely artifacts of non-response bias.
Rigorous research is not possible without easy access to ALL data, including data from respondents who do not qualify for, or complete, the full survey.
The latest data on wireless phone use shows how difficult it has become to conduct good telephone surveys. Half the infrastructure for those surveys is now gone.
NYT is finally softening its refusal to consider online surveys rigorous enough to meet their standards for reporting. This is good news because online surveys work.
Asking people to report what others will do is more accurate than asking them what they, themselves, will do, according to a new academic study on voting behavior.
Versta Research in the News
The Creating IT Futures Foundation partnered with Versta Research and Doyle Research to document how urban teens think about their futures and how the IT industry can attract more of them into tech careers.
The Chicago Tribune featured an article about our client’s college roommate matching program, for which Versta Research developed the algorithm.
Versta Research has teamed up with Brilliant Ink to offer a new Employee Experience Assessment tool that helps companies assess, understand, and improve employee engagement and satisfaction.
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